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Broker beware: 4 kinds of tech shaking up the CRE scene

Aug 22, 2016

Robots-937271-edited.jpegAre you worried about disintermediation at the hands of our merciless robotic overlords? Do you feel powerless to stem the onslaught of new technology? Try using it to your advantage instead.

In-person meetings, conferences and personal networking aren’t going away. But innovative new technologies are changing the game for commercial real estate, and brokers need to learn how to use them to their advantage. While many are wringing their hands at potential disintermediation, these innovations don’t have to be harbingers of doom.

From transactions to leases to financial arrangements, here are a few players you should take note of.

Online auctions

Sites such as auction.com, though they welcome brokerage listings, are cutting into the business a bit. A private buyer anywhere in the country, or the world for that matter, can bid on or purchase a commercial real estate property directly from an owner, potentially cutting a broker out of a deal.

But instead of worrying about competing with independent transactions, brokers should understand how to use these portals and integrate them into their business.

Site selection

Brokers used to be the only option if a tenant wanted a new space or a landlord needed new tenants. Well, there are now several online options to find site-selection information and the market demographics of particular locales.

One of the most interesting developments in the tech world is the use of drones as a tool for site selection, which give aerial views of properties and their environs.

There’s also seemingly endless data on commercial real estate in general. Many third-party tech companies are taking a crack at the data that used to be provided and explained by brokers.

On-the-ground apps

New mobile apps on the market provide all sorts of information on commercial real estate properties. One example is CRE Tech, which provides solutions for people looking for intel on particular assets. A potential investor can find statistics on title, mortgage and measurement history on a given asset.


Whether due to new regulations from the SEC or changes in corporate attitudes, anyone can now find very detailed information about both landlords and tenants online. For example, Simon Property Group, the largest mall owner in the world, now provides plenty of information in its annual reports that virtually anyone can access. You can find information about the firm’s properties that include current occupancy rates, major tenants and the amount of ownership Simon has in the asset, depending on whether or not it is a joint-venture investment.

What to offer in this new world

The good news for commercial real estate brokers is that these technology developments are far from a death sentence. Embracing and using these services is only to your benefit.

As a younger generation enters the commercial real estate workforce, there is going to be a serious migration toward using tech as a tool to help expedite transactions. What technology can’t provide, however, is the synthesis of data into insight relevant to a specific person in a specific time and place. Brokers no longer hold the keys to all CRE information, but they can use their expertise to help others wield it wisely.

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Ian Ritter

Written by Ian Ritter

Ian Ritter is a veteran commercial real estate writer. He worked several years as retail editor at GlobeSt.com and currently writes about the industry for several corporate clients and news organizations. He holds a Master's Degree from Columbia University's School of Journalism.

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